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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 12:54 GMT
'Overhaul' for flagship arts show
Alan Yentob
Alan Yentob will host Imagine, the re-named Omnibus
The BBC's flagship arts programme, Omnibus, is to be re-named and given a new presenter in a radical revamp.

The BBC says Omnibus is being re-launched - not scrapped - and has hit back at criticism that the move is a sign of dumbing down.

The show, to be called Imagine, will be overhauled at the start of 2003 and will be presented by former BBC One controller Alan Yentob.

Sebastian Faulks in Moscow
Sebastian Faulks was a recent subject of Omnibus
The BBC has come under fire from critics who say its arts coverage is being relegated in favour of rating-winning programmes.

But the BBC hopes the new show will rival Melvyn Bragg's ITV1 contemporary arts series, The South Bank Show.

In 2001, Bragg accused the BBC of "a total dereliction of its public duty" for not giving enough time to the arts.

Others have accused the BBC of ignoring the arts in prime-time slots, with shows like Rolf on Art derided by some critics.


It was felt it was a good time to refresh Omnibus

BBC Spokesperson
In June, the BBC responded by announcing that it was to pump 3.3m into arts programming.

The last Omnibus will be shown in January 2003.

"The BBC has a programme of modernisation across all arts output and, in line with the BBC One strategy of modernising the channel, it was felt it was a good time to refresh Omnibus," a spokesperson said.

Recent shows have profiled the Italian painter Botticelli, the award-winning musical My Fair Lady and writer Sebastian Faulks.

One-off

New presenter Yentob worked as a producer and director on Omnibus in the 1970s and is currently director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London.

As well as presenting Imagine, he is also hosting a range of one-off arts programmes, including profiles of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

Rolf On Art is also due to return in 2003.

Arts coverage on the BBC has been boosted by the arrival of digital channel BBC Four - the former BBC Knowledge - which has become the unofficial home of arts and educational programming for BBC television.

See also:

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